2017 will be remembered as one of the better years for the digital entertainment industry – the recent months have seen rereleases of such hit titles as Divinity: Original Sin II, Injustice 2, NiOh, NieR: Automata, or Destiny 2. There were some disappointments as well, obviously, such as Mass Effect: Andromeda or Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3. Where we’ve been expecting hits, we got... well, proof that even the best trailers guarantee absolutely nothing in terms of final quality.
That’s why even the most promising future needs to be taken with a grain of salt. What now seems to be a sure-fire game of the year candidate, may yet turn out to become the flop of the year. Especially after a throng of red lights and warning signs shows during the development. And believe us, you can see them coming long before the final release date, even among all the PR noise and perfectly post-processed trailers.
We’ve decided to take a closer look at some of the currently most-advertised titles, and examine them for such possible warning signs, be they small or the size of Jupiter. Let us hope that the titles will eventually defend themselves with quality, proving us wrong in the process. That said, it’s always good to keep one’s doubts close at hand, before we find ourselves drawn into a hypestorm and preorder or buy something even before we see any decent reviews.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
- Release date: October 27
- Genre: action game
- Platform: PC, PS4, XOne
The Assassin’s Creed franchise was badly in need of a revolution for a long time. Origins is to introduce it to the stale gameplay mechanics of the series. That being said, while the refurbishing of the combat system, inclusion of Witcher-esque side-quests and expansive character development tree does have the potential to give the series a second life, some of the ideas proposed by Ubisoft’s dev team are controversial.
One thing that will fall prey to the “RPGfication” of the new AC will be the stealth kills – if our character has too low a level, his attack with the iconic hidden blade will be unable to take down an opponent in one hit – it will “only” deal massive damage instead. This change is hard to accept for long-standing fans of the series, who are keen to notice the departure from the stealth-based origins of the franchise.
One more thing that was received less than favorably is the departure from realistic plot elements and skills of Bayek, the latest/oldest of the series’ protagonists. Sure, AC was never shy about its science-fiction kink, but up until now it was just an envelope for realistic, historical settings and gameplay. This time, not only will we be facing mythical beasts of legends, but we will be doing so using such gadgets as guided arrows or “eagle drone”.
What worries us are also the promises of a gigantic map, even bigger than the area available in Black Flag. While in Black Flag most of the large area was covered by water, Origins will serve us mostly land. Will the creators be able to provide enough interesting content to cover such space? Even a land as exciting as ancient Egypt will get boring quickly if the only thing we can do is rummage through the desert in search of treasure chests and randomly-generated-yet-identical quests.
Call of Duty: WW II
- Release date: November 3
- Genre: FPS
- Platform: PC, PS4, XOne
The gamers had to wait long enough for the bosses of Activision to yield under the pressure, convincing the company to set the Call of Duty franchise back on its original rails – World War II setting – instead of attempting to shoot it farther and farther into space. The fans’ response was very enthusiastic, and the franchise enjoyed gamer attention that it hasn’t seen in years. The initial promo materials did a great job keeping that flame alive... until the PC beta tests of the multiplayer mode started, and suddenly a number of doubts surfaced (though admittedly, most of them are exclusive to the PC version).
As it turned out, when it comes to technology the new Call of Duty is the same old Call of Duty – only dressed in new clothes, sporting technical issues and confined maps (with invulnerable environment), and reeking heavily of console gaming. Additionally, many gamers were disappointed with the liberties taken by the developers when it comes to the depiction of a historical setting – featuring such intriguing elements as Afro-American soldiers fighting in the ranks of the Third Reich.
The thing that truly plagued the beta tests, however, were the cheaters, who successfully spoiled the fun of other gamers. The multiplayer mode in WW II, the main attraction of Call of Duty in the eyes of most fans, appears to be worse than the single player campaign, at least on PC – and there’s not enough time left until the release to introduce any substantial changes at this point. What’s more, if you remember the issues with diminishing numbers of online players in Infinite Warfare, you can almost see history repeat itself with WW II. Even if you would like to play the game online, you may simply lack others to do so.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Release date: February 13
- Genre: RPG
- Platform: PC, PS4, XOne
The first Mafia has become an iconic title and placed its main designer, Daniel Vavra, among the legends of the industry. His latest project will either strengthen his position or deal a severe blow to his reputation, as many signs suggest that Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a title in which reality continuously punishes the excessive ambition of its developers.
The project certainly does not lack ambition – Deliverance is to be an ultrarealistic, down-to-earth RPG without any fantastic elements whatsoever. A whole ton of consultants, architects and historians, have made sure that each and every item, building, or custom depicted in the setting is as close to real-life situation in the 15th-century Czech area as possible.
The team had it rough from the very beginning, having spent years on futile search for an investor who would find the project worthy of their attention. The successful 2014 crowdfunding campaign was to become the remedy to all the problems, but even then the progress was behind schedule time after time. Ultimately, Deliverance is to be released early next year... despite looking nowhere near being finished.
The builds that were made available to the players contain horrifying amounts of bugs and glitches, inluding disappointing quality of facial animations. Combat, one of the main gameplay elements, resembles a series of slow, awkward clashes of wood logs swinging sacks of potatoes – it may take up to 15 seconds to execute a single attack – and the enemy AI is nowhere to be found. What’s more, riding on horse back looks like it takes place in slow motion, due to our “ride” visibly holding back on the effort. The realism of the setting was achieved at the cost of smooth gameplay, and it may be something many players simply won’t buy as an explanation. What’s more, there is little time left for the developers to introduce any changes.
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
- Release date: TBA
- Genre: card game
- Platform: PC, PS4, XOne
After the enormous success of The Witcher 3, many people see CD Projekt RED as being on par with giants such as Blizzard or Naughty Dog. And not without a good reason: the remarkable quality of The Wild Hunt and its expansions is an undisputable fact, and both of its prequels cannot be considered bad games either, even if that’s not really evident when looking at the sales figures.
That’s why many players hope the release of Gwent: The Witcher Card Game will mark the beginning of the genre’s new era. But here’s where things get less exciting: you have to remember that Gwent is only a side project and that the majority of CDPR’s efforts will be devoted to the development of Cyberpunk 2077 – this may not be a huge issue upon the game’s release, but it may impact its lifespan. The current king of card games, Hearthstone, receives three major expansions every year; it seems unlikely that CD Projekt RED will devote so much resources to Gwent.
And consequently this may determine the fate of the game in the long run. Gwent’s beta showed that, contrary to other card games, there isn’t much room for chance there. On one hand, that’s really good, because it promotes strategy, experience and the ability to choose the right deck; on the other, it makes the gameplay more predictable.
The single player campaign is a different thing altogether. It looks great from what we’ve seen, but each campaign will probably by a one-time adventure – and the gaps between new episodes may be too great to maintain interest.
- Release date: TBA
- Genre: cosmic simulator
- Platform: PC
Oh boy, where should we even begin…? Star Citizen is no doubt one of the most (and perhaps the most) ambitious projects in history of video games. The gargantuan production by Cloud Imperium Games, established by the industry’s veteran, Chris Roberts, aims at blending several genres in order to create an incredibly complex and detailed online space action RPG – players will be able to explore an immense world full of planets, stars and other celestial bodies, on which they will be able to land, trade, fight with others and do a bazillion other things in dozens of ships and vehicles. Those who prefer a more personal experience will get a cinematic single player campaign starring the virtual versions of Gary Oldman and Mark Hamill, just to name a couple actors.
Roberts’ vision is unquestionably captivating – no wonder he was able to get hundreds of thousands of players aboard the hype train. The story began with the acquisition of a modest sum of $6.23 million dollars via Kickstarter in November 2012. During the next five years, the budget grew exponentially, reaching $160 million this September.
The amount of money doesn’t seem to help with wrapping the project up – according to initial plans, the game was supposed to be released in 2014; three years later, we haven’t even gotten a version of the game that would resemble a final build. On October 7th, the 3.0 Alpha version was released, dubbed by the devs “Star Citizen early access”. Cloud Imperium Games wanted to release a beta version in 2018, but few players believe that will actually be realized. Meanwhile, the studio stopped bothering with postponing the release date, so we’re in the darkest corner of dark space.
Now, you would probably assume that, although the development seems to be dawdling, the finances of this endeavor are the least of the concerns, considering the huge support the project receives. It recently turned out, however, that such assumption could be a sign of credulity – Cloud Imperium Games have taken a loan of another $150 million this June. Some surmised that the studio’s in trouble because of the top executives’ profusion. The official statement, though, is that everything is fine, the game still belongs to CIG (as opposed to some bank in Great Britain), and the amount of dough in their bank accounts still warrants the completion of the game. We shall see; only Chris Roberts and his closest affiliates know the truth.
Gran Turismo Sport
- Release date: October 17
- Genre: racing game
- Platform: PS4
While the rival series by Microsoft – Forza Motorsport – is released almost exactly every two years, the fans of Gran Turismo always have to wait for years for a new installment in the series. The last game, Gran Turismo 6, was released four years ago – three years after the 5, and eight years after the 4. That’s why each new car game by Polyphony Digital is such a Christmas for the fans of digital racing.
Gran Turismo Sport may, unfortunately, fail the hopes of the series’ most dedicated fans. It’s not the quality that may be an issue here – the experience of the Japanese studio cannot be disregarded and according to people who have participated in the game’s beta tests, we’re in for some very solid racing. The issue lies elsewhere: in the fundamental premise of the game, which seems to turn the old formula upside down.
The game departs from its regular core gameplay – obtaining new licenses and saving up to be able to afford new cars from among the available hundreds. The single player campaign will be no more, the number of cars – reduced to less than 200, and the focus will shift to the multiplayer. The devs boast the prestigious deals they secured with different sport organizations, announcing numerous tournaments with great prizes. The elaborate system of online racing may turn out to be quite interesting, but mostly for those who are already familiar with the series. The players, who prefer to chill out with a bit of solo racing will probably not find anything of interest here.
Detroit: Become Human
- Release date: 2018
- Genre: adventure/RPG
- Platform: PS4
Quantic Dream, the studio established by David Cage, is known for making remarkable games. Fahrenheit (a.k.a. Indigo Prophecy), Heavy Rain, even Beyond: Two Souls, which was released to a rather modest reception, were one of the most original games to date, with the story always being the most important element. On top of that, both Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain actually allowed the players to really shape the stories with their actions.
At the same time, all these games had issues with their stories. Fahrenheit was pretty much perfect for the bulk of the game, but the left-field ending left players perplexed and disappointed. Heavy Rain made a great first impression, but the story revealed huge plot holes under more thorough analysis, rendering some of the game’s scenes quite ludicrous. The story of Beyond turned out to be downright mediocre if you only took the time to piece the non-chronological elements together.
Hence there are some serious grounds for concern with Detroit: Become Human. The possibility of something going not exactly right is hard to dismiss, especially if we assume that the case of Beyond was actually indicative of some sort of creativity crisis. Nevertheless, we hope that the two years that Cage spent on writing and polishing the scenario of his new game were a time of fruitful and inspired work, and that Detroit: Become Human will deliver a meaningful, ambitious and thoughtful story about society and humanity in general.
- Release date: March 2018
- Genre: RPG
- Platform: PC, PS4, XOne
On paper, Vampyr looks just phenomenal. Set in London during the Great Plague, this RPG should stand out with an overwhelming, suffocating and dismal atmosphere and morally ambivalent decisions the players will have to make. Playing as the titular vampire, you will constantly be forced to choose your victims, which, in turn, will entail far-reaching consequences.
“What is such a good game doing here?”, you might ask. The thing is, the French studio that’s developing it, Dontnod Entertainment, is rather inexperienced, being only 8 years old and having developed two games – Remember Me and Life is Strange. The first of these games was initially an ambitious blend of RPG and action as well, but it ended up as merely an average – albeit very original – action-adventure title.
Life Is Strange, on the other hand, was downright brilliant – one of my personal favorites of the past decade. But it was an episodic adventure game – and this implies it was nowhere near as complex or as technically challenging to develop as big role-playing games. And Vampyr will be precisely this, perhaps to an even greater extent: the game appears to emphasize layered cause-and-effect mechanics even more than a regular RPG. Who knows, maybe the deep end turned out a little too deep for this relatively new studio…
Comparisons to Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines seem unavoidable – this also was a very ambitious RPG game about vampires, where great ideas were buried underneath a pile of clunky, buggy and underdeveloped mechanics. It took years of work within the community to finally patch it up and make it the game it was supposed to be from the beginning. It would be a terrible shame to see Vampyr share the same fate.
Michael Grygorcewicz | Gamepressure.com